Monthly Archives: March 2018

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Medication in Prison Associated with Reductions in Fatal Opioid Overdoses After Release

Science Spotlight

February 14, 2018

Treatment is the KeyTreatment is the Key

A state-led initiative created within the Rhode Island correctional system showed that offering medication to inmates with opioid use disorders reduced fatal overdoses once the inmates were released. The reduction in fatal overdoses was large enough to have a significant effect on the death rate from opioid overdoses statewide. The research was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Every person entering the Rhode Island correctional system was screened for opioid addiction and those who needed it were provided with evidence-based medication assisted treatment (MAT), which included the drugs methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone. In addition, a system of 12 community-based Centers of Excellence in MAT were established to continue MAT therapy and provide support after their release from prison or jail.

In the first six months of 2017, when the program was fully implemented, only nine of 157 fatal overdoses (5.7 percent) in the state occurred among recently released inmates, compared to 14.5 percent of overdose deaths in the first six months of 2016, representing a 60.5 percent reduction in mortality. The authors emphasize that continued study of this program is needed. However, they are encouraged by these early findings, and noted that identification and treatment of opioid use disorder in criminal justice settings with linkage to medication and supportive therapy after release is a promising strategy to rapidly address the high rates of overdose and opioid use disorder in the community.

For a copy of the Research Letter, go to “Postincarceration Fatal Overdoses After Implementing Medications for Addiction Treatment in a Statewide Correctional System,” published in JAMA Psychiatry.

Read more about Treating Opioid Addiction in Criminal Justice Settings.

Drugs and the Brain Wallet Card

For NIDA information about Criminal Justice resources available to those who work with juveniles and adults within the court system, go to NIDA’s Criminal Justice page.

More information can be found in the Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment for Criminal Justice Populations: A Research-Based Guide.

For more information, contact the NIDA press office at or 301-443-6245. Follow NIDA on Twitter and Facebook.

NIDA Press Office

About the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug use and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to inform policy, improve practice, and advance addiction science. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs and information on NIDA research and other activities can be found at, which is now compatible with your smartphone, iPad or tablet. To order publications in English or Spanish, call NIDA’s DrugPubs research dissemination center at 1-877-NIDA-NIH or 240-645-0228 (TDD) or email requests to Online ordering is available at NIDA’s media guide can be found at, and its easy-to-read website can be found at You can follow NIDA on Twitter and Facebook.

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